Frequently Asked Questions


What is Panhandle Alliance for Education?

Panhandle Alliance for Education is an independent, community-based nonprofit organization created in 2002 for the purpose of raising money to support the Lake Pend Oreille School District.


Why was Panhandle Alliance for Education created? Don’t state and local taxes pay for our schools?

State funds and local property taxes are the major source of money to pay for operation of local schools. In many parts of Idaho, people find those sources are inadequate to do all that is being asked of our teachers and district leaders. Creating a public school foundation to enhance taxpayer dollars is a way to take responsibility at the local level for assuring that your community has high quality schools. That is what a handful of people in the Sandpoint area did in 2002. They wanted to accomplish four main goals:

  1. Establish a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) support organization that works with school district leaders but would be independent of the district and its budgeting processes;
  2. Create and fund an endowment to sustain the goal of supporting the district and its teachers;
  3. Make annual grants to teachers for innovative classroom teaching and learning;
  4. Make strategic investments in the district for leadership training, professional development and to meet other critical needs that might arise.

Where does this local money come from?

Hundreds of people have given directly to Panhandle Alliance for Education and many do so each year, including many teachers. Others have participated in Panhandle Alliance fundraising events, such as the annual Summer Sunset Gala and the Litehouse Charity Golf Tournament.

As Panhandle Alliance for Education has become more successful, it has been able to obtain funding from various granting organizations, including the Inland Northwest Community Foundation, the Idaho Community Foundation, the Equinox Foundation and others.

Also, several local families have established their own endowments and directed endowment proceeds go to Panhandle Alliance for Education and its programs.


Who decides how the money is spent?

Panhandle Alliance for Education is governed by a Board of Directors that approves all financial decisions. The Grants Committee is made up of board members. It reviews all the proposals submitted each year by teachers and evaluates them against a list of criteria, such as innovation, collaboration, number of students served, likelihood of success, etc. The committee makes its recommendation to the whole board. Since 2003 Panhandle Alliance for Education has funded over 650 grants to teachers.

Learn more about Panhandle Alliance board members →


What are some examples of grants that have been funded?

Grants vary greatly. Here are a few examples: Safety equipment for a high school woodshop, purchase of pig hearts and technology for teaching dissection to a sixth-grade science class, materials for building a solar car, advanced anatomy textbooks, musical instruments, microscopes, poetry workshops, a variety of technology to enhance learning, and much, much more.

Panhandle Alliance for Education does not provide funding for capital improvements, what is often referred to as “bricks and mortar.”

Get more information about projects that have been funded →


What is Panhandle Alliance for Education doing to encourage students to continue their education after high school?

Panhandle Alliance for Education provided seed money for the district’s College and Career Guidance Center and Counselor. The center provides information about college, technical school and career choices. Every high school student has access to information about the application process, financial aid and scholarships. The Center sponsors a school-wide testing day for all students to be better prepared for eventual college entrance exams.


What if I want to give money for a specific project at my child’s school?

Cash gifts for a specific project at a specific school are always welcome and are best given directly to the school. While Panhandle Alliance for Education’s mission is broader and more strategic, we encourage all kinds of support for public schools.

We hope you also will find the work of Panhandle Alliance for Education worthy of an annual contribution.


What is an endowment fund?

An endowment fund is money that is set aside and professionally managed. Creation of an endowment fund is common practice among successful nonprofit organizations that want to assure long-term financial stability and sustainability. In Panhandle Alliance for Education’s case, endowment funds are held by the Idaho Community Foundation and the Inland Northwest Community Foundation, which also act as guardians of the funds. Panhandle Alliance for Education does not have access to the principal amount invested, but uses the interest to fund programs or to re-invest in the endowment. The larger the endowment principal, the greater the interest proceeds available each year. This arrangement guarantees that Panhandle Alliance for Education will be around for the long term to carry out its mission of supporting local education.

Building an endowment fund is a key component of Panhandle Alliance for Education’s mission as determined by founders in 2002. That aspect of the mission was affirmed recently, and growing the endowment is a key strategic initiative of Panhandle Alliance’s board over the next three to five years. See the Annual Report to see where alliance’s endowment fund currently stands.


Why do people give to an endowment fund?

People give for a variety of reasons, including tax advantages, a desire to create a family legacy or an interest in a specific area of education. One Sandpoint resident established a $50,000 endowment with Panhandle Alliance for Education for the purpose of promoting arts and music education.

People interested in making such a gift can contact the Panhandle Alliance for Education office or consult with a financial adviser.


Does Panhandle Alliance for Education get involved in school levy campaigns or school board elections?

As a tax-exempt 501(c)(3), Panhandle Alliance for Education cannot support or oppose candidates or ballot measures, such as school levies and bond issues. Panhandle Alliance is not restricted, however, from providing information on an ongoing basis about education-related issues. One of the alliance’s goals is to be a trusted source of information about such issues.

Panhandle Alliance board members and staff are free to express their personal views on matters of local interest, including education issues.